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New Directors New Films opens this week end

New Directors/New Films, one of the most anticipated film events on the New York film calendar, opens this week end. The program, jointly presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Department of Film and Media of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), will unspool 25 feature films and 5 shorts from March 22 through April 2, 2006. The program opens with the East Coast Premiere of HALF NELSON, a Sundance sleeper about a committed teacher in New York’s public schools, played by rising star Ryan Gosling, and directed by Ryan Fleck.

A previous article concentrated on the American, documentary and French films that will be shown in the series. But New Directors New Films is decidedly an international mix, with excellent films from the rest of Europe, Asia and Latin America bringing attention to a new generation of local film artists.

New voices from European cinema are represented in the Festival by such diverse works as ICEBERG, co-directed by the trio of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy from Belgium, a poetic fantasy set in a tranquil seaside town in Normandy. In Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen’s A SOAP, two neighbors search for love and lust in an offbeat look at contemporary relationships and gender roles. The film won a Best New Feature Award at last month’s Berlin Film Festival.

Another anticipated Scandinavian film is ELEVEN MEN OUT, directed by Róbert I. Douglas. This Iceland/Finland/United Kingdom co-production is the story of a champion soccer star who announces he is gay, and the effect that has on his family, his teammates and the macho sports enthusiasts who have idolized him. The film received a clutch of Edda Award (the Icelandic Oscar) nominations for Best Film and Best Supporting Actor and Actress.

From Ireland comes PAVEE LACKEEN, a documentary/fiction hybrid of the Irish Travelers community, locals whose lifestyle is to be constantly on the move. The film is the feature debut of famed local photographer Perry Ogden, who brings a unique eye to the story of a young girl’s family, living in a ramshackle trailer on the industrialized outskirts of Dublin. The film won IFTA Awards (the Irish Oscar) for Best Picture, Best New Director, as well as the Satyajit Ray Award for Best New Director at the London Film Festival.

The hills of Italy’s Piemonte region aren’t exactly the rolling plains of the Lone Star State, but the twenty-somethings who populate Italian director Fausto Paravidinio’s impressive debut feature TEXAS, would feel right at home in Peter Bogdanovich’s the LAST PICTURE SHOW. The film features a great ensemble cast of some of the most talented young actors in contemporary Italian cinema, playing a charismatic group of drifts and slackers who just float through life on their way to adulthood. The young director won the Pasinetti Award for Most Promising New Director at the Venice Film Festival.

Asian cinema is also represented in the program, by Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof’s IRON ISLAND, about a community of dozens of families who have taken up residence on a rusting oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. The film was one of the sleeper hits at the Toronto Film Festival. In Filipino directors Ian Gamazon and Neill dela Llana’s CAVITE, people will do just about anything to survive. This edgy thriller follows the story of a Philippine-American man who returns to his native country to attend a family funeral, to find that his mother and sister have been abducted by terrorists. The directors won the Someone To Watch Award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Australian director Sarah Watt, a well-known writer and producer of animated films, makes her feature debut with LOOK BOTH WAYS, a complex story of intersecting lives that mixes animation techniques with strong psychological implications. The film was a major winner at the Australian Film Institute Awards, winning prizes for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, as well as winning the prestigious Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Latin American films continue to produce astonishing new talents, and this year’s NDNF showcases two exceptional films from the region. SANGRE, by Mexican director Amat Escalante, is a minimalist debut feature that follows the mundane lives of a young couple, who like to eat, watch television and have sex in every room of their cramped house. When the man’s grown daughter from a previous marriage shows up at their doorstep, it ignites a firestorm of jealousy and rage. The film debuted in the Un Certain Regard section of last year’s Cannes Film Festival, winning the FIPRESCI Critics Prize.

Sex is also the obsession of IN BED, a romantic comedy drama about two people who fall into bed before they fall into love, by Chilean director Matías Bize. The film features truly naked performances by the wildly Blanca Lewin and Gonzalo Valenzuela, with a script that recalls Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNSET.

The New Directors New Films program also will screen a ten-film retrospective of American documentaries that premiered at the prestigious event during its 35 year history. With documentaries showing their clout at the theatrical box office, the program is well timed to review the influence of such landmark documentary features as STREETWISE (1984, Martin Bell), WITNESS TO WAR (1984, Deborah Shaffer & David Goodman), THE TIES THAT BIND (1984, Su Friedrich), JOHN HUSTON AND THE DUBLINERS (1987, Lilyan Sievernich), WHO KILLED VINCENT CHIN? (1988, Christine Choy & Renee Tajima), A DAY ON THE GRAND CANAL WITH THE EMPEROR OF CHINA (1988, Philip Haas), H-2 WORKER (1990, Stephanie Black), THE DEVIL NEVER SLEEPS (1994, Lourdes Portillo), PARADISE LOST: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills (1996, Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky), GOSHOGAOKA (1997, Sharon Lockhart), SOUND AND FURY (1999, Josh Aronson) and THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (1999, Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato).

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor

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